Deputy Representative of the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, in Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, on Wednesday said 69 per cent of Nigeria’s out-of-school children are located in the northern part of the country.
She stated that Bauchi State has the highest number with 1.1 million children that are out of school followed by Katsina with 781,500.
The UNICEF official made the announcement at a Northern Nigeria Traditional Leaders Conference on Out-of-school Children held in Kaduna, disclosing that a ministerial strategic plan states that Nigeria has 10.5 million children aged 6-14, out of school.
“When we speak of out-of-school children, who are they? It is too easy to keep them nameless and faceless. The latest MlCS data tells us that 69 per cent of out-of-school children in Nigeria are in northern states.
“These children are in your communities, on your streets, in the households, in your council area.
“Other sources say the number of out-of-school children is higher. But the focus is not the precise number, the focus should be on boys and girls in your communities who lose out on education, lose out of livelihoods, and lose out on hope and the future they can have for themselves, their families, their communities and their country. Nigeria loses out on a literate and skilled workforce it needs to grow economically.
“Nigeria needs to take leap to bring more children into education and into learning. Partnerships and collective actions are essential.
“This is the reason why we are here today at the Northern Nigeria Traditional Leaders Conference on Out-of-School Children. Together we can take the quantum leap to give more children the opportunity to go to and stay in school,” she said.
Pernille explained that in the North-east and North-west states of Nigeria, more than half of primary school aged girls are not in school.
According to her, “There are several reasons why these children are not in school. Gender is an important factor in the pattern of educational marginalisation.
“In the conference, we will not only discuss these barriers, we will focus on actions that need to be taken to reduce them. Many parents in northern Nigeria prefer Islamic education over formal education but they are not mutually exclusive.
“Children need both. They also have a right to learn to read and write, mathematics and develop the knowledge and skills that will enable them to be contributing citizens of Nigeria. One approach to address both needs is the integration of basic education subjects into Islamic centres, Quranic Islamiyya and Tsangaya to reach more children with basic education skills. Approximately 26 per cent of muslim children in northern Nigeria only attend Islamic education,” she said.
The official also said UNICEF recognises the key role of traditional institutions in northern Nigeria to positively influence parents and ensure that children under their councils are literate.
“UNICEF also recognises the leadership of Sultan of Sokoto for this conference and for his partnership with the Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development, FME, UBEC, as well as development partners in changing the story of children in their communities,” Pernille added.